A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland #BookReview

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Esther Solar’s family is . . . unusual. Her father hasn’t left the basement in six years. Her brother is terrified of darkness.

Esther isn’t afraid of anything – because she avoids pretty much everything. Elevators are off limits, as are open spaces, crowds, family pets, birds, needles, haircuts, dolls and mirrors.

But when Esther is pickpocketed by her cocky old classmate Jonah Walker, Esther and Jonah become surprising friends. Jonah sets a challenge: every week they must work their way through the world’s fifty most common phobias. Skydiving, horse riding, beekeeping, public speaking, reptilehouses – they plan to do it all.

Soon their weekly foray into fear becomes the only thing that keeps them tethered to reality, and to each other. But each is keeping a secret from the other, a secret that threatens to rip them apart.

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P.19 (a description of the three friends Hephzibah, Eugene and Esther): “A ghost who couldn’t speak, a boy who hated the dark and a girl who dressed as someone else everywhere she went.”

Who the hell tapes all the light switches and lamps in a house in the on-position, or dresses like she’s on her way to a costume party every single day? What did I start reading? Quirky novels and me, we don’t always (usually) gel well and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be such a novel but the characters were too endearing from the start to let them go and so this novel is the exception on the rule. There’s also just something about knowing someone’s vulnerability, being allowed to read about their fears, it’s just impossible not to feel for them.

Even when it’s all part of a made-up world – too unreal because there’s just too many fears and quirkiness to truly believe it – I’m sure there are people who are afraid of the dark and who see black cats as an omen. The author magnified this only a thousand times. At first sight it only seems like a crazy, bizarre and funny read with Esther tackling her bucket list of fears, but it’s definitely not all it is.

There’s also a little bit of magical realism in the story that was pulled off really well and it kept me wondering throughout the novel if Death really was a person or not. Esther thinks to know for sure as she sees how The Curse spoken to her grandfather by Death himself during the war holds her entire family in a grip. He told them they would all die from their biggest fear or phobia and so far it all came true. She doesn’t want to become like them though, so she’s trying to lure Death to her by confronting her fears instead of avoiding them like she’s done for so many years. I loved following her challenges, they start easy and are funny enough but become more serious further down the list. There are even a few I’d pass up on myself.

It doesn’t take long though to understand there are many layers beneath the bizarre spectacle, some obvious and others harder to see through. The novel has some deep messages about mental health issues, depression, loss, but also personal growth, being yourself and seeking help when you need it. The funny quirky characters help to keep it light enough so it has exactly the right amount of balance. And Jonah was the perfect person to bring out the best in Esther, he’s so creative and attentive and I wish and hope we can all have a Jonah in our lives.

Overall a very enjoyable debut novel that makes me wonder what else she has in store. I can recommend this novel to bookworms who read or are interested in reading Turtles All The Way Down.

I received a free copy from this novel through a giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

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The Furies by Katie Lowe #BookReview

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In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder.

After an accident involving her Dad and sister, Violet joins Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls school in a quiet coastal town, which has an unpleasant history as the site of famous 17th century witch trials. Violet quickly finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, alongside Robin, Grace, and Alex – led by their charismatic art teacher, Annabel.

While Annabel claims her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals – warning the girls off the topic, describing it as little more than mythology – the girls start to believe that magic is real, and that they can harness it. But when the body of a former member of the society – Robin’s best friend, with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance – is found dead on campus nine months after she disappeared, Violet begins to wonder whether she can trust her friends, teachers, or even herself.

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If I don’t hit it off with a novel right away – if I’m not feeling ‘it’ – it’ll be difficult to turn that feeling around and, unfortunately, that’s what happened when I started reading The Furies. The fact is that for some reason I didn’t take in some of the narrative in certain paragraphs and I had to go back and reread parts of the story. I believe the reason for this could be because of the lyrical and descriptive writing style and the plot didn’t really capture my attention after the – I must admit – wonderful first chapter.

I loved the rich history of the school and how the author broached the Greek mythology in the story but the characters fell flat for me and weren’t all that interesting. The plotline involves four girls (Violet, Robin, Alex and Grace) but in reality there are only two stealing the show which are Robin and ‘Vivi’. These girls have quite a toxic relationship where one is being manipulated by the other and I should maybe have felt for Violet but she didn’t really say or do anything to make me care for her very much.

There was even one disturbing scene where she was involved (I might say it merits a trigger warning) and it didn’t sit well with me at all, not her behaviour at the time but I was appalled by her reaction afterwards as well. Let’s just say that her way to deal with a situation was taking revenge with some witchcraft where she should have acted rationally. I do love young adult and have enjoyed many novels in this genre before but I feel this one must be for younger readers. I know I was looking too hard into their actions and struggling with the decision-making in the novel so much I wasn’t able to really enjoy it like I should have. The Furies contains storylines of peer pressure, revenge and assault so it does touch on some interesting and not so easy topics but the girls are naïve and the surface was only scratched for me, I was not able to feel the emotions that such tough subjects could provoke.

The Furies reminded me of tv shows as Pretty Little Liars and The Craft, and it does show some similarities so if you really enjoy voodoo-doll and animal sacrifice rituals then you’ll find the storyline to your liking. I think this might work better for me as a tv show.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover #BookReview

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Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

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Colleen Hoover has quite clearly moved away from writing cute little romance stories. Well even those stories, the ones she wrote until a few years ago, were more emotional and touching than so many others but I still place them in the category of feel-good stories. It Ends With Us wasn’t a feel-good story for me, it was a punch in the gut kind of story, it was poignant and real, and this one – don’t let the cover let you think otherwise – is the same. She now obviously writes stories with a message, about things that life throws at you and how people cope with that.

The story has 2 plotlines, one showing Graham and Quinn at the very start of their relationship (cue swoonworthy moments) and years later in the present, when their relationship comes under such durress it might not even survive. How did it get this far when they were such a perfect couple? I really wanted to hang onto the chapters in the past but the author didn’t let me and kept the story going into the present too so that I couldn’t escape what was going on with them.

““What’s the secret to a perfect marriage?’ The old man leaned forward and looked at me very seriously. ‘Our marriage hasn’t been perfect. No marriage is perfect. There were times when she gave up on us. There were even more times when I gave up on us. The secret to our longevity is that we never gave up at the same time.”

The main topic of the story was maybe a little bit out of the way of my own experiences and ideas about what I want in life, but I could understand Quinn and it wasn’t hard to root for them to find their way to each other again. I liked Quinn but it hurt me too to see how she pushed Graham away and let this unfulfilled dream come between them. As a bystander it’s easier to see what is needed and what is going on of course, and I wanted to tell her that communication was the only way out of it but I could only hope and wish so hard that they’d come to the same conclusion before reaching the breaking point of their marriage.

I really liked the story but if I want to compare it to the previous novel I read then I have to admit I really liked reading All Your Perfects but didn’t love it like It Ends With Us. It was heartfelt but this time it didn’t break me into a million pieces like her other novel did. It is however still a very recommendable story!

I purchased an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Did I Mention I Love You? (DIMILY trilogy, book 1) #BookReview

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When sixteen-year-old Eden Munro agrees to spend the summer with her estranged father in the beachfront city of Santa Monica, California, she has no idea what she’s letting herself in for. Eden’s parents are divorced and have gone their separate ways, and now her father has a brand new family. For Eden, this means she’s about to meet three new step-brothers. The eldest of the three is Tyler Bruce, a troubled teenager with a short temper and a huge ego.

Complete polar opposites, Eden quickly finds herself thrust into a world full of new experiences as Tyler’s group of friends take her under their wing. But the one thing she just can’t understand is Tyler, and the more she presses to figure out the truth about him, the more she finds herself falling for the one person she shouldn’t her step-brother.

Throw in Tyler’s clingy girlfriend and a guy who has his eyes set on Eden, and there’s secrets, lies and a whole lot of drama. But how can Eden keep her feelings under control? And can she ever work out the truth about Tyler? Did I Mention I Love You is the first book in the phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, following the lives of Eden Munro and Tyler Bruce as they try to find their way in an increasingly confusing world.

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star three and a half

I know that reading young adult novels is not related to age but there was at least one time I couldn’t escape the thought of ‘I’m too old for this’ flashing through my mind.

Would you feel attracted to a moody teenager who can’t say a single nice word to you? Me neither but when Eden arrives at her father’s new place and meets his new family she can’t help being very interested in Tyler. Too much for her own good btw as he’s a) already taken and b) euhm.. family. She must have seen something in his eyes that I obviously didn’t share because I couldn’t immediately see past his arrogant, egotistical attitude. I had my eyes on another guy right away, someone who was more of a gentleman but of course Eden has a penchant for a bad boy type of guy.

I get it though, Tyler’s mysterious ways are a serious X-factor and of course he’s not the incredible badass that he claims to be. I did enjoy the story in the end and my own feelings towards Tyler started thawing when he finally gave some insight into his behaviour. The last part has a few twists in what was otherwise quite a straightforward storyline of slow burning attraction between Eden and Tyler, and made me race through it to know how they would handle their ‘situation’. Would they end up together or not?

If you enjoy dark brooding guys, a somewhat taboo relationship and a good dose of instalove then this is definitely a read you don’t want to miss. Even though I didn’t really fall in love with this read, the guy was too wishywashy for my taste, I am actually a little curious about the sequel, so you never know that I give it a chance in the future anyway.

I won a free paperback copy of this novel via a giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green #BookReview

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‘It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.’

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

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I was very excited to read my first John Green novel and I thought I was going to love it since I really like YA mystery and the mental health issue also sounded quite interesting but I’m afraid I didn’t fall in love with the plot nor the characters.

A lot of it is probably due to never having felt a real connection with Aza, the person this whole novel is actually about. She’s not a very remarkable character except for what makes her different: she suffers from obsessive thinking. I think it’s great that this condition is brought under our attention but it was quite hard to understand and often sympathise with Aza. I did make some progress towards the end of the novel in regards to knowing how she is as a person and what the consequences are for her but it still wasn’t easy to grasp. I know novels are sometimes too rosy-colored and they often make problems go away or mental illnesses resolve themselves and I don’t like that but I would have preferred to see some progression, something to be really happy about for Aza. The only people evolving are her friends and the reader and she seemed to remain at a standstill. Maybe that’s the whole point of the novel too but even so, she could have showed perhaps a bit more how to deal with it properly and how to live her life happily instead of only highlighting the problems. This way it was definitely not a good news show.

Unfortunately the mystery part of the missing billionnaire was also only a small section of the novel. It really wasn’t what the novel was about and wasn’t followed through. I believe it was just a way to get in touch with Davis as there wasn’t happening much with the plotline. As for Davis himself, I quite often felt sorry for him and his little brother. The spiralling thoughts Aza is having also impact her personal life and relationships and the poor guy is of course caught in the middle when he tries to connect with her.

Turtles All The Way Down was sometimes a YA story and sometimes almost lyrically philosophical. There are plenty of wonderful one-liners that really spoke to me and make you want to get into a highlighting mode. Green uses metaphores aplently and one of Davis’ qualities is quoting poets and using their quotes to refer to his own life. I liked it but it was all a bit much sometimes.

It was disturbing to hear Aza’s spiralling thoughts and seeing that she can’t break those thoughts, telling her what to do if she doesn’t want to be killed by bacteria. C. diff. is her her greatest torment and she goes very far in her thought process.

I wouldn’t read this novel again but in the end it created more awareness for me and I’m sure everyone who reads it and I’m grateful for that.

I won a paperback copy of this novel in a blogger’s giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas #BookReview

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Sam Holloway has survived the worst that life can throw at you. But he’s not really living. His meticulous routines keep everything nice and safe – with just one exception . . .

Three nights a week, Sam dons his superhero costume and patrols the streets. It makes him feel invincible – but his unlikely heroics are getting him into some sticky situations.

Then a girl comes along and starts to shatter the walls Sam has built around himself. Now, he needs to decide if he’s brave enough to take off the mask, and to confront the grief he’s been avoiding for so long . . .

Hilarious and heart-warming, this is a story about grief, loneliness, and the life-changing power of kindness.

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Sam is 26, lives in his immaculately clean house, has 2 equally geeky friends and he works in the factory of a Japanase wholesaler where he’s a model employee. At night he’s roaming the streets (in a ridiculous costume) and although his actions are limited to helping elderly ladies with their shopping or bringing lost dogs back home, he feels good with these little helpful acts. Good people doing good deeds definitely applies to Sam.. but when he falls in love, everything is jeopardized and in danger of falling apart, including the safe, simple life he carefully built up. It all starts to unravel and while he is used to coping on his own, he might need some help to deal with the setbacks he comes across. Sometimes help does come from the people you least expect it from. One of the people reaching out and helping him was definitely a surprise but I cheered when I realised he was actually getting help from someone in his corner!

It took me a while to get into this novel but Sam did grow on me as the story developed and in the end I genuinly cared and I wanted him to overcome the past. The episodes of ‘The Phantasm’ were at first quirky and funny – as a parody on old heroes like batman –  but behind Sam as the masked man lies a tragedy slowly revealing itself as the story progressed. There was a shift at a certain moment from which point I started to understand more clearly why he felt like he needed this alter ago. The general hilarity of it all changed everything with the new insights. His background and the trauma which he dealt with on his own definitely shed a different light on his actions. There’s a reason why he feels best when he’s in character and why he simply can’t hang up his costume, even after he hears his love interest say she thinks The Phantasm is ridiculous, and it was sad and I felt heavy-hearted hearing what life had thrown at him.

There was a good mix of laughter and pain in this novel. His backstory was very tragic, well thought-out and the best part of the novel for me. Unfortunately that’s also probably what I will remember in a few month’s time and the first part of the novel won’t hang in my head as long.. it was so cartoonish at times that I had a hard time imagining this character could be a real person. So to end I’d say I liked it, but didn’t love it. A commendable debut and if you have a bit more fantasy than me, you might love it.

I received a free copy of this novel from publisher Wildfire in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

The perfect summer read: In Search Of Us by Ava Dellaira #BookReview @avadellaira @HotKeyBooks @imosebba

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Because the missing pieces always matter . . .

Marilyn is in search of freedom. She grew up as a child actor, her mother’s meal ticket out of mediocrity. But it’s been a long time since she booked a job, and she and her mother have no choice but to move in with her volatile uncle.

Marilyn is counting down the days until she can escape to college, and the promise of her own future. That is, until she falls in love with James, the boy downstairs, who shows her that her life is worth living in the present. At 17, Marilyn is about to learn that everything can change in an instant.

Angie is in search of answers. She is mixed race and has never met her father, but she knows she looks and thinks a lot like him. Though Angie grew up with her devoted mother, Marilyn, she’s always felt the absence of the man she never knew.

But after discovering that her mother has been lying to her, Angie sets off on a road trip to Los Angeles, in search of an unknown uncle – and maybe even her dad. At 17, she hopes to finally find out the truth about where she came from so she can discover who she truly is.

Told from the perspective of these two young women, Marilyn’s in the late 90s, and Angie’s today, IN SEARCH OF US is a sweeping inter-generational story about mothers and daughters, love and loss, holding on and letting go.

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This is just one of those books that really fill your heart and makes you sad and smile and it’s all happening at the same time you know. There’s a mystery and a love story at the base of this novel. They’ll meet in the proverbially perfect and heart-shattering middle.

The novel switches between Angie wanting to know more about her father and trying to find out if  he’s dead or alive, and how it all started with her father and Marilyn, Angie’s mother. I loved seeing the romance between Marilyn and James develop and how she was welcomed into his warm family. You know that they’re not together any more and Marilyn still can’t think of him without tearing up so I was prepared for something terrible to happen but when I came to that part of the novel the impact was still bigger than I anticipated. I knew it was coming, couldn’t avoid it try as I might, and still was quite in shock.

Both plotlines, Angie’s search in the present and Marilyn’s encounter with James, at the same age but 17 years earlier, were very engrossing and it was actually fun and engrossing to read this dual timeline. Angie might have started out alone in her desire for answers but as the story progressed and the connection between Marilyn and James became bigger, we both ended up longing to know and even I hoped he was still alive.

But even if 16 year-old Angie had all my sympathy and understanding and I adored Dellaira’s skilled writing that made her turn to her favorite songs whenever she felt the need in time of worries and trouble, I loved her mother Marilyn in her younger version most of all. She’s such a good person and the attraction and romance with James was nothing other than perfect. They have such a sweet connection, I was already dreading the moment it would end. They seemed so right for each other so I couldn’t wrap my head around it, until I actually read the words.

In Search Of Us was such a lovely novel with beautiful people (the only exception being Uncle Woody who grudgingly shares his house with Marilyn and her mother), lots of cool 90’s music references  and a whole lot of love. This novel is going to steal your heart, just like it did mine :-).

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.